Constitutional status to OBC panel gets LS okay

 Constitutional status to OBC panel gets LS okay

The Lok Sabha. PTI file photo

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a Bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC), nullifying the amendments made to it by the Rajya Sabha.

The Constitution (123rd) Amendment Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha unanimously after Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot assured the members that the government would make provisions in the rules to ensure that one of four members of the proposed Commission would be a woman.

The Bill superseded the amendments made by the Rajya Sabha, with all 406 members present voting in favour after a nearly five-hour debate in which 32 members took part.

On July 31 last year, the Rajya Sabha had forced amendments to the Bill making provisions to have a woman and a person from minority community as members of the Commission. Much to the embarrassment of the government, the Rajya Sabha also passed an amendment deleting Clause 3 of the Bill as NDA's floor managers had failed to ensure an adequate presence of its members in the Upper House.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in January for consideration and passing, but could not be taken up due to a verbal duel between Union Minister Giriraj Singh and Trinamool member Kalyan Banerjee.

BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab had moved amendments to ensure that a woman is made a member of the Commission and to grant more say to the state governments in deciding on the castes to be included in the list of OBCs in the state.

The amendments were nullified after Gehlot assured the House to make provision in the rule to ensure that one of the members of the Commission would be a woman. On concerns related to the role of states, the minister made it clear that the NCBC will have no role in finalising the list of OBCs in the state.

“The NCBC will decide on the Central list of OBCs. The state list will be decided by the state commission. A report of the Central Commission will not be necessary for state governments to finalise the state list of OBCs,” Gehlot said.

Participating in the debate, several members, including former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda urged the government to explore whether reservations could be given beyond the 50% cap set by the Supreme Court.

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